A common theme that comes up when talking with other scientists and academics is that we wish we had more time to read. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do a better job of reading for years, and spent 2015 tracking my reading using #365papers. The goal of that was to read a paper every day – I wasn’t planning on reading work papers on weekends, but I thought there would be enough work days where I read more than one paper that it would offset it. I was wrong. I didn’t get anywhere near 365 (I got to 181), but it still motivated me to read more than I would have – at least, until teaching Intro Bio completely took over.
Having just completed another semester of teaching Intro Bio (and having it take over), I was thinking again about how to reprioritize reading. I decided that I would prefer to have a time goal (30 minutes per day) rather than a paper goal, since I felt like having a paper goal was distorting my reading habits in a way that wasn’t useful.
I mentioned on twitter that I was thinking of using a time goal this year, and loved this reply:
That was exactly what I had in mind! So, in the end, I’m going to use #readinghour to track my reading this year, even though my goal is 30 minutes per day.
- Read at least 30 minutes on work days
- On some non-work days, aim to spend 30 minutes reading books that are sort of work related but not enough to feel like I should spend work time reading them (e.g., The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, Merchants of Doubt).
My #readinghour goal will be greatly aided by not teaching this semester and being on sabbatical next fall. (Yes, I realize how lucky I am.) My hope is that having a goal like this will allow me to make sure reading stays a priority throughout the year.
If you’d like to join in using the #readinghour hashtag, please do! Your goals/rules don’t have to match mine. But I know I’m not alone in wanting to try to carve out more time for reading, and hope the idea of a reading hour (or half hour or twenty minutes or whatever works for you!) will help others.
Caitlin MacKenzie and Anne Jefferson both had great posts recapping their #365papers reading from 2017. They’re worth a read!
Good luck in your goal! This post has been inspirational. I regret to say that as an ecology consultant I had the same goad in early 2017 but I did not manage to reach any number close to 100…The reading hour concept provides a helpful hint but do you think that 30 minutes per day are enough to read thoroughly a paper and understand complex statistics and methodology? Not enough for me…..
You might enjoy the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. He discusses, at various levels, the value of and ways to achieve quality time to focus on work (including reading). Setting aside time, shutting the door, etc. are essential, but so is being convinced (deeply) that this is doing real work. (By the way, I’m plugging the book because I enjoyed it but I am far from successfully implementing his or my own advice…)
Thanks for the suggestion! That does sound interesting.
I’d go by objective rather than time – for me, choosing objectives that are important to me would motivate me to take the time.
One thing I enjoyed doing in grad school was going to the library, grabing a stack of recent issues of a journal and going through and reading every abstract and sometimes the intro. I could grab anything from Quaternary Resarch to Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology to Journal of Geophysical Research.
Sometimes I would have a really good idea of what the article is about; other times not, but it definately introduces you to new things, and thinking about something besides your own discipline for an hour a week is really useful aside from being just plain fun.
Great advice, thanks! I’m going to employ it starting today. And it’s good to know that reading a paper per day is a goal many people don’t meet, this way I don’t feel so guilty :-D.
I’m always reading some book, and during the last two years I’ve been alternating between ecology-related books and other books. It worked reasonably well for me, as I was able to read six ecology-related books without feeling like I was working. The books were Mark Vellend’s Theory of Ecological Communities, Krebs’s Behavioral Ecology, a book on mangroves, a book on animal migration, a book on animal cognition, and Gotelli and Ellison’s Primer of Ecological Statistics.
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